Beirut, Lebanon, 20-24 March 2000



This report is presented in three sections:





The following is a brief summary of action taken on recommendations made by the 24th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for the Near East.

1. Assistance in the formulation of a regional strategy of agricultural development to promote regional cooperation and to identify specific regional projects for achieving sustainable food security.

A comprehensive document NERC/00/004: "Towards a Strategic Framework for Sustainable Agriculture Development in the Near East Region", has been prepared for presentation at the Senior Officers' meeting. In addition, Regional Strategies for Agricultural Development and Food Security were prepared for several Regional Economic groupings of relevance to the Region (ref. NERC/00/3/Annex).

2. Provision of technical assistance to the Central Asian Member States of the Near East Region.

An Expert Consultation on National Water Policy Reform in Central Asian Countries was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan (July 1999), including 6 Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS): Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Country reports were compiled in Russian, translated into English, and were presented at the consultation.

3. FAO to consider establishing a sub-regional office to serve the Central Asian Member States and the neighbouring countries in the region, and to strengthen the Regional Office and sub-regional office(s).

This is subject to availability of budgetary resources.

4. Assistance to member countries in approaching donors and international organizations for support in their national efforts to implement the WFS Plan of Action.

The ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security is being utilized to mobilize support for government efforts to implement the World Food Summit Plan of Action, rural development and food security programmes; reinforce ties between UN organizations and other stakeholders and foster synergies and complementarities; and to exchange and disseminate information, experiences and best practices.

To date, the ACC networks consisting of national Thematic Groups, within the UN coordinating system, have been established in 77 countries around the world. Of these, 10 national Thematic Groups are in the Near East, namely: Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia and Yemen.

5. FAO to report on the progress achieved in cooperation with the UN Commissioner for Human Rights on the "Right to Food" issue.

FAO has collaborated with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), in the preparation of the General Comment on the "Right to Adequate Food", that was adopted on 11 May 1999, which aims to identify some of the principal issues which the CESCR considers to be important, in relation to the Right to Adequate Food. The General Comment was presented to the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at its 25th Session held in Rome, in 1999. The CFS welcomed the General Comment as an important step in implementing Objective 7.4 of the World Food Summit Plan of Action, and noted the reference to the need for UN agencies, including FAO, to provide assistance to developing countries, upon request, and noted that the assistance should draw fully on the expertise of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The CFS commended the collaboration between FAO and CESCR.

6. FAO to assist in conducting an inventory of national traditional water conservation and harvesting practices with a view to improving and promoting such practices as low-cost water saving technologies.

The FAO Regional Office for the Near East conducted a training course on Scheme Irrigation Management Information System (SIMIS), for promoting efficient water management and conservation, in Cyprus in May 1999, with the participation of five countries from the Region.

7. FAO to continue supporting countries endeavours in reviewing and formulating their national agricultural development strategies, policies and plans of action, and in the preparation of multilateral trade negotiations in agriculture.

7.1 Agricultural Strategies/Policies

A Regional Training Workshop on "Food and Agriculture Policy Analysis, with Special Emphasis on Credit and Rural Finance Policies", was implemented in Teheran during September 1998. The meeting was attended by 20 participants from 12 countries. Collaborators included Agricultural Bank of Iran, the Near East and North Africa Regional Agricultural Credit Association (NENARACA) and the Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Centre for the Islamic Countries (SESRTCIC).

A Training Workshop to Strengthen Sustainability Issues in Agriculture Policy Analysis and Planning was conducted in 1998 in Cairo. Participants from 16 countries and 8 international/regional organizations attended the workshop. It was held in collaboration with the National Planning Institute, Cairo, under the umbrella of the Joint Committee on Environment and Development in the Arab Region (JCEDAR) and participating agencies included SESRTCIC, the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD), and Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

7.2 Preparation of Multilateral Trade Negotiations in Agriculture

FAO held an Expert Consultation on "the Preparation for the Next Round of Trade Negotiation" in Rabat, Morocco (December 1998). Experts from 7 countries, as well as from WTO, participated in the Consultation.

FAO prepared an Umbrella Regional Capacity Building/Training Programme on "Uruguay Round Training and Future Negotiations in Agriculture". About 60 participants from 12 countries attended the meeting held in Cairo, in September 1999.

8. FAO to promote technical cooperation among countries in the areas of sustainable food security including research and extension, water policy reforms, agricultural marketing and rural finance, reduction of pre-, during and post-harvest losses, harmonization of food control legislation and procedures, and adopting an optimal cropping mix and rotations.

8.1 Sustainable Food Security

The strategies were prepared for several Regional Economic groupings in the Region (NERC/00/3-Annex).

8. 2 Agro-Industries Activities

A Regional Workshop on Date-Palm Post-Harvest Technologies to promote development of suitable date-palm processing technologies for increasing value added products, and to reduce post-harvest losses and encourage the exports, was held in October 1999, in Teheran;

A regional training course was held in Cairo in November 1998, on the Utilization of Agricultural Residues for Food and Feed Production, with the objective of providing the participants with the state-of-the-art in cultivation of various mushroom production technologies, project management and animal feed from agricultural waste.

8.3 Research and Technology Development Activities

RNE and the Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East and North Africa (AARINENA), jointly formulated a Strategy Towards 2000 and beyond, for promoting regional cooperation among agricultural research institutions and establishment of a regional network for research and development.

Five regional projects in priority areas to achieve sustainable food security were identified for submission to donors, in collaboration with AARINENA Executive Committee, during a meeting held in September 1998, in Cyprus.

Promotion of management improvement and capacity building in agricultural research to directors of agricultural research institutions, in selected countries in the Region (Training Session, April 1999, Kuwait).

8.4 Agricultural Marketing and Rural Finance Activities

FAO/RNE continued to provide technical support to member countries, mainly through FAO initiated networks of Agricultural Food Marketing Association for the Near East and North Africa (AFMANENA) and the Near East and North Africa Regional Agricultural Credit Association (NENARACA). Advisory services and technical assistance, micro-finance, operable credit guarantee funds to support rural finance and investment in agriculture, identification of training needs of member countries in rural finance and agricultural activities, leading role of the private sector in food and the required public sector policy, cereals storage, and technical assistance on policies and capacity building.

9. FAO to support the establishment of a Regional Network for Agricultural Policies

A Preparatory Expert Consultation for the Establishment of the Near East and North Africa Regional Network for Agricultural Policies (NENARNAP) was held in Cairo, during December 1998, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Egypt. The meeting was attended by Experts from Iran, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Yemen. RNE will serve as the Secretariat for an ad hoc Committee established to follow up on the preparation of the network. This will include the establishment of one Sub-Network for serving the countries of the Maghreb Sub-Region under the overall Secretariat of the Network, which will be supported by the Agricultural Policy Assistance Branch at RNE. A regional project document on the establishment of the Network is being finalized for submission to potential donors.

10. FAO to assist in the establishment and/or strengthening of Food Security/Food Information Systems, in particular the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) at both national and regional levels.

Four national Thematic Groups affiliated to the ACC Network in the Near East in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen - have identified Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Mapping Systems (FIVIMS), as priority themes for concerted country-level action. A household food security pilot activity has been undertaken in Sudan.

11. FAO to continue providing technical assistance, particularly through the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS).

This subject is comprehensively treated under agenda item (No. 4), document NERC/00/3 "Follow-up of the World Food Summit", presented at the Senior Officers meeting.

A technical paper was prepared by FAO entitled "Food Security in Arid Rangelands: A Summary of Issues and Approaches", and was circulated at the UN Conference of the Convention on Desertification, held at FAO-HQ, during October 1997. FAO produced also a CD-ROM on "Combating Desertification".

12. FAO to continue leading the national and international collaborative efforts for the control of the Old World Screw-worm (OWS) in Iraq and in other neighbouring countries, and to benefit from the successful Libyan experience in this regard.

In 1998, FAO`s Service for Special Relief Operations fielded a mission to evaluate the current status of Old World Screw-worm (OWS) in Iraq and neighbouring countries to assess the necessary requirements to contain and control OWS in the Region, and to prepare a relevant project proposal.

As a result, a regional-oriented project document entitled "Emergency Assistance for Screw-worm Fly Control in Iraq and in the Middle East Region" was prepared and presented to the Governments concerned in 1998.

A donor meeting was convened in December 1998. Although this did not immediately translate into concrete commitment from any participant, some interest was expressed and FAO is still actively exploring the potential for a regional programme against OWS.

13. FAO to consider preparing a document on economic and social policies in the Region for discussion at the next Regional Conference, under the related standing item, in addition to other topics to be selected in consultation with the countries of the Region. Agenda items for the next Regional Conference might include "Water Policy Reform in the Near East", and "Policies for Intra-regional Cooperation".

In addition to the document on "Strategic Framework for Sustainable Agricultural Development" (ref. NERC/00/4), FAO prepared a document on Water Policy in the Near East Region, following three expert consultations on water policy reform programmes, held in Beirut, Cairo and Almaty during December 1996, November 1997 and July 1999, respectively.

Another comprehensive paper was prepared by FAO, entitled "Water Policy Reform in the Near East: A Framework for Implementation", and was presented at the Agriculture and Land and Water Use Commission (ALAWUC) Session held in Beirut, back-to-back with the 25th NERC Session, (March 2000).

14. FAO to assist in organizing a regional expert meeting on the optimal utilization of water resources and irrigation, in collaboration with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) which expressed its readiness to cosponsor the meeting, to be held in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Contacts are underway with ICARDA for discussing the requirements of this meeting, its contents, scope, and organizational aspects, and to explore possible joint funding through other regional organizations, member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Land and Water.

15. FAO to continue exploring the NECP reactivation, in the context of the High-Level Committee taking into consideration the possibility of approaching national and regional funding institutions to be directly involved in this endeavour, and to report its findings to the 25th NERC Session.

The document No. NERC/00/INF/5 presented in the Senior Officers meeting, underlines the importance of NECP or alternative programme reactivation, within the action of the High-Level Committee established for this purpose and chaired by HE Ali Ibrahim Al Mahrous, Minister for Public Works and Agriculture in Bahrain.

The FAO Regional Office in Cairo continues to provide the necessary secretarial support and follow-up on the subject, exploring new possibilities and proposing alternative modalities to foster this cooperative programme.

16. FAO to implement in the Western Region a programme similar to the Desert Locust component of EMPRES in the Central Region.

FAO prepared a document on the establishment of an Emergency Prevention System for Transboundry Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) programme in the Western Region. The document was discussed in Nouakchott, Mauritania in March 1998, by concerned countries and donors. A revised document was prepared in July 1998, and was distributed to the countries and donors for comments. FAO allocated Regular Programme funds for early warning and early reaction operations, and requested the assistance of donors and member countries to establish the EMPRES programme in the Western Region, with due consideration to strengthen the coordination of Regional Desert Locus Control activities.

17. FAO to formalize linkages between the Commission for Controlling Desert Locust in the Central Region and the EMPRES programme in the Central Region in order to achieve complementarity and cost effectiveness of human and financial resources.

A framework for cooperation between the FAO Commission for Controlling Desert Locust in the Central Region and the EMPRES programme (Desert Locust) in the Central Region was established in June 1998. The framework sets a mechanism of cooperation and coordination between the Commission and EMPRES programme that ensures complementarity and cost effectiveness of human and financial resources.


The following activities highlight the scope and nature of the programme elements undertaken during the biennium 1998-99, in all or some member countries of the Region, under various specialized fields of action, within FAO mandate. They are not intended to be exhaustive to cover all actions undertaken by FAO in the Near East Region

1. Agricultural Policy Analysis

FAO continues to provide support to the countries in preparing long-term Agricultural Development Strategies. In this regard, FAO is supporting the Egyptian Government in the preparation of the "Agriculture Development Strategy till year 2017", as a follow-up to the World Food Summit Recommendations. The strategy is being prepared in collaboration with the World Bank and UNDP. Also, FAO is in the process of assisting the Islamic Republic of Iran in the preparation of an Agricultural Development Strategy.

In addition, FAO is supporting CIS countries of Central Asia in the field of agricultural policy and planning. Missions were carried out to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyztan, to discuss governments' needs and priorities and possible collaboration in the area of policy analysis, and to prepare a strategic framework for agricultural development. Similar assistance was provided to other countries in the Region: Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, UAE, Mauritania, Syria and Yemen.

2. Agricultural Production Intensification

2.1 Land and Water Resources Development

Promoting water use efficiency at farm level: Improvement of water application efficiency at farm level represents a vital target towards achieving water saving in Agriculture Sector which consumes over 85% of the Near East overall fresh water use. Member countries would be assisted to train their national cadres/irrigationists as trainers, who then could transfer the acquired skills to farmers/operators, at farm level.

Establishment of the "Regional Network on Wastewater Reuse for Agriculture": RNE has already initiated the preliminary steps by compiling a "Status Report" consisting of country profiles on the production, treatment and use of wastewater for agriculture. The network will be launched in 2000 and will be co-sponsored by seven Regional and International Organizations/Centres, interested in promoting the safe and efficient use of treated wastewater in the Region.

Promoting soil conservation through sustainable land-use planning: The rapid rate of land degradation through soil salinization, water logging, water/wind erosion and other desertification mechanisms, all warrant development of a feasible system for `Land Husbandry'. Some modern information tools are available for achieving sound land use planning and utilization, such as Soil and Terrain Database (SOTER), Geographical Information System (GIS), Agro- Ecological Zones (AEZ), Automated Land Evaluation System (ALES), etc.

Update of land and water databases: This is a continuing activity which aims at establishing corporate database for land and water, basically maintained by FAO headquarters, hence the regional input is a significant tributary to this pool of knowledge, symbolized by the two global databases: one for water- better known as AQUASTAT; and the other for soil, better known as SOTER.

2.2 Field Crops Development

Support to meetings to assess impact of new technologies/ methodologies: FAO participated and financially supported the Workshop of Decentralized-Participatory Plant Breeding in Aleppo, Syria (May 1999). The main objective of the workshop was to review current activities in participatory research in marginal land and discuss recent methodologies.

2.3 Grassland and Pasture Development

The activities in this sector consisted of providing continuous technical assistance/advisory services to national efforts in projects implementation and backstopping, in the fields of range rehabilitation and establishment of wildlife reserves, proper management of natural resources of pasture and rangeland. Beneficiary countries include Algeria, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Syria.

2.4 Seed and Plant Genetic Resources Development

A Technical Meeting on Seed Policy and Programmes in the Near East and North Africa was held in Larnaca (Cyprus) from 27 June to 2 July 1999, with the objective to review the actual status of the seed sector n the Region.

A regional meeting to promote the implementation of the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in Central and West Asia and North Africa was held at ICARDA in Aleppo (Syria), in June, 1998. It was convened by FAO and the CGIAR's System wide Genetic Resources Programme (SGRP). Participants from 24 Near Eastern countries attended the meeting.

2.5 Horticultural Crops Promotion

The technical activities under this field supported ongoing national projects to promote the intensification programmes of horticultural crops in various member countries (Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, etc.), on olive production and processing, walnut propagation and production, rainfed orchards improvement, protected horticulture cultivation, development of research on horticultural crops, etc.

2.6 Plant Protection Activities

Four issues of the Arab and Near East Plant Protection Newsletter have been produced. Regional TCP project documents on pesticide management and phytosanitary measures were prepared for some member countries. Eight regional workshops/technical meetings and training seminars were organized for the benefit of national experts from the member countries on the following subjects: Biological control, participatory approach to integrated pest management (IPM), red date palm weevil control, desert locust control survey and monitoring, aerial and ground application of pesticides for desert locust control, the management of white fly virus complex obsolete pesticides disposal in the Near East Region.

Various technical documents and proceedings from these meetings and related consultations were produced and distributed.

3. Agro-Industries and Agricultural Services

3.1 Industrial Crops, Agro-Industrial and Food Processing

Regional Workshop on Date-Palm Post-Harvest Technologies to promote development of suitable date-palm processing technologies for increasing value added products, and to reduce post-harvest losses and to encourage export of date-palm, was held in October 1999 in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

3.2 Agricultural Marketing and Rural Finance

Technical and advisory assistance continued to be provided to member countries through AFMANENA and NENARACA, whenever applicable. Regional activities included review of legislative constraints for liberalization and privatization of agricultural marketing; proto-type curricula development for Arab Universities in Agricultural Marketing, in line with identified needs arising from privatization and changes in international trade environment (agricultural marketing business management courses); urban food security and agricultural marketing; innovative credit technique; introduction of automations in agricultural banks - micro-banker; and lastly, requirements for implementation of credit guarantee funds.

Ongoing examples are the Crop Insurance project in Syria; the FAO Micro Banking System in the Arabic language in Jordan (completed in December 1998). A significant collaborative effort is underway for the production of a set of textbooks, in Arabic, on agricultural marketing.

4. Animal Production and Health

4.1 Old World Screw-worm (OWS) and Related Issues

FAO-HQ and RNE made it clear that the screw-worm problem in Iraq cannot and should not be viewed in isolation. The collapse of field veterinary services plus the general lack of pesticides and drugs caused the upsurge of a number of animal disease problems. The lack of acaricides has increased the tick burden (particularly in sheep), which has given rise to the emergence of tick-borne diseases. Tick wounds have amplified the OWS problem and so have the lesions caused by Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) and probably sheep pox.

Additional vehicles, sprayers and insecticides have become available through the "Food for Oil Agreement" for Iraq, through FAO and AOAD. The amount of insecticide available in veterinary clinics is sufficient for the immediate term. However, indications are that the situation is still fluid and that OWS keeps spreading despite unfavourable climatic conditions. The pattern of geographical spread conforms to an earlier prepared OWS Risk Map and places a threat to Syria.

4.2 Regional Animal Disease Surveillance and Control Network (RADISCON) for North Africa, the Middle East and the Arab Peninsula

This is an IFAD funded, FAO executed project, and with 29 participating countries, including 21 from the RNE Region. The project was launched in June 1996 and is pursuing the two-fold objective of improving quality of field generated disease information data on the one hand, and providing a framework to encourage inter-country sharing of relevant information, on the other hand. All concerned countries have mounted their respective national disease information systems, thanks to RADISCON, and most of these countries are now connected electronically though e-mail/internet.

5. Work on Agricultural Commodities and Trade

FAO, through its Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), monitors food supply and demand in the Near East on a continuous basis. It analyses information on cereal production, stocks and trade and informs the countries in the Region, affected by natural or man-made disasters, to help streamline international assistance, thus minimizing human suffering. FAO has intensified monitoring of the Region due to the current severe drought, which is endangering the livelihood of thousands of farmers and jeopardizing the food security of several countries.

6. Agricultural Statistics

FAO Statistics Division has continued to assist member countries of the Region in the development of National Agricultural Statistics Information Systems, mainly through the project framework. During the period under review, such activities were supported in Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan.

In addition, the Division conducted a Workshop entitled "Supply Utilization Accounts and Food Balance Sheets", in November 1998 in Beirut. The Workshop was attended by a total of 20 participants from 15 member countries.

7. Nutrition

A regional workshop was organized in Bahrain in June 1998, to assist member countries in the establishment of food composition database.

Targeting programmes for nutrition improvement so that limited resources are directed to those populations who are in greatest need: A regional workshop was organized in Cairo in May 1998. A draft manual was reviewed and redrafted on targeting for nutrition improvement. Another workshop took place in Bahrain in November 1999, on Targeting Nutrition Programmes for Special Groups (female and elderly).

Nutrition Education and Consumer Awareness: this activity was undertaken through two workshops for Arabic and non-Arabic speaking countries. The proceedings were made available and distributed widely. In addition, a Regional Workshop on Food-based Dietary Guidelines was organized in Jordan in December 1998. Several publications in this area were produced including Get the Best from Your Food (translation), Food and Nutrition Terminology - English/Arabic dictionary, etc.

Food Control and Consumer Protection - a Regional Workshop was held in Cairo in September 1998, on the Harmonization of Food Control System in the Near East Region. FAO provided technical support in food control through field projects in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.

8. Work of Sustainable Development and Agricultural Research

A review was prepared for the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) of member countries, in collaboration with AARINENA and ICARDA, and a Directory of NARS institutions of the Near East Region will be published. The review study, along with the directory, will facilitate exchange information among NARS institutions and scientists in the Region, and will promote partnerships for technology generation, adaptation and transfer, and cooperation among the NARS institutions.

Also, at the regional level, there is the ongoing preparation of a study on "Integrating Communication for Development in Agricultural and Rural Knowledge and Information Systems (ARKIS) for Collaborative Natural Resource Management in the Near East Region". A training module on integration of environment education into extension programmes has been introduced in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Assistance is being given to the Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East and North Africa (AARINENA) in the formulation of AARINENA Strategy Towards 2000 and beyond. This strategy is aimed at promoting regional cooperation among agricultural research institutions and establishment of a regional network for research development.

Under the umbrella of the Regional Cooperative Project for Research, Development and Training on the Utilization of Agricultural Residues, FAO/RNE formulated a project aimed at promoting the development of appropriate agro-processing of the main crops in the Region, with a view of increasing value added.

In the field of Modern Biotechnology Applications in Arid Land Agriculture, an assessment will be undertaken, in collaboration with AARINENA, ICARDA and ISNAR, during the year 2000 in Kuwait, and an International Conference will be convened for this purpose.

9. Forestry Development and Management

During the period under review, the FAO/RNE forestry programme conducted the following activities:

Regional Meeting for National Coordinators on Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management in the Near East Region (Damascus, Syria, December 1998), with participants from 11 countries. This meeting was cosponsored by the UN Environment Programme.

Regional Expert Consultation on Protected Area Management and Sustainable Rural Development in the Near East (Amman, Jordan, July 1998), with the participation of 20 experts from 7 Near East Member Countries.

A follow-up meeting for the development and the coordination of regional activities of Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP), held in Beirut, Lebanon (May, 1999), with attendance from 9 Near East countries and participants from International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic studies (ICAMAS), International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), and the American University of Beirut.

In addition to the holding of the Near East Regional Forestry Commission (13th Session) in Damascus, Syria (December 1998), FAO provided support to Sylva Mediterranea Research Network.

A Regional Workshop was held in support to national forestry programmes (Istanbul, Turkey, October 1999), which was attended by experts from the Near East and Central Asian countries.

10. Fisheries Development Programme

This programme included a number of training courses and workshops to help in strengthening the fisheries management and aquaculture capabilities in the Region. Some highlights are below:

Two Regional Workshops on Fisheries Statistics were held. The first for North African Arab Countries in Tunis, attended by 4 countries and the second for the other countries of the Region, and was held in Tehran, co-sponsored by Regional Organization for the Protection of Marine Environment (ROPME) and attended by 12 countries.

The first jointly implemented activity by FAO and International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM) was held in October 1999. This was an aquaculture training programme, held in Cairo and attended by 8 countries.

FAO had supported the activities of the Arab Federation of Fish Producers during several conferences, seminars and other meetings.

Participants from 5 countries of the Region were supported to attend Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) workshop on the implementation of the Code of Conduct held in Muscat, Oman in October 1999.

Also, the technical assistance was extended to the member countries to establish a Regional Fisheries Commission, and to rehabilitate the fisheries information project, INFOSAMAK. As a result, the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI) was finally approved by the FAO council and an Ad Hoc conference will be held soon. On the other hand, a decision was made to relocate the HQ of INFOSAMAK from Bahrain to Morocco.

11. Agricultural Investment Activities

During the 1998-99 biennium, FAO Investment Centre prepared 8 agricultural projects for the Region, which were approved for financing by the multilateral financing institutions cooperating with FAO. Total investments mobilized amounted to US$892.06 million, including US$572 million in external loans, mainly from the WB/IDA, IFAD and bilateral funds, the balance being provided by the recipient countries. Projects approved were for agricultural development and credit in Azerbaijan, irrigation in Egypt, irrigation and agricultural services in the Kyrgyz Republic, watershed management, water resources management and fisheries in Morocco, and commodity markets in Turkey.

During the same period, the Investment Centre Division completed the formulation of three other projects with estimated total requirements of some US$156 million. These projects cover integrated development in Mauritania, rural development in Lebanon and irrigation in Egypt.

12. Emergency Assistance

FAO's Special Relief Operations Service (TCOR) has, through 32 emergency projects, provided emergency assistance to 7 Near East countries affected by complex emergencies, natural disasters, and in response to outbreak of locust pests or animal diseases during the 1998-99 biennium. As emphasised by the Rome Declaration on World Food Security (World Food Summit in 1996), FAO regards humanitarian assistance as an integral part of its mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standard of living, particularly in the rural areas of the developing world. In response to the recent drought in the region, TCOR has fielded missions to assess the most urgent rehabilitation needs in the agriculture sector.

Following severe droughts and floods in the Near East region, FAO has assisted the affected rural population in Iran, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Sudan through the provision of agricultural inputs. FAO has also supported the control of locusts and other migratory pests through national and regional projects as well as the control of animal national and regional transboundary diseases.


1. Agricultural Production and Support Systems

        1.1 The major programmes covering land and water resources development, irrigation and water management, soil fertility improvement and land reclamation, information systems/databases and statistics, water policy reforms, all would represent priority subjects to be treated and supported by FAO actions in the Near East Region, during the biennium 2000-2001. The main outputs expected would include updating and publication of the Plant Nutrition Management Guide, Guidelines for the Safe Use of Wastewater in the Near East, Water Quality Management and Control of Water Pollution, national and regional inventories and digital databases of soil conservation approaches and technologies, assistance in the formulation of integrated plant nutrition management, soil productivity and soil fertility, and support to technical regional bodies on water resources assessment, development and management of irrigation and drainage systems.

        1.2 Extended support and direct assistance to the implementation at country level of the Special Programme for Food Security projects and activities, in addition to the direct advice for improved crop production, plant protection, coordination and information exchange on EMPRES/Plant Pests Components, and improvement of grassland - based production systems.

The FAO Regional office will support activities for regional networks and working groups on field crops, horticultural products, range and fodder production, pesticides management issues, desert locust control operations and improved guidelines, and in the organization of workshops and training seminars.

Special attention would be given to crops with drought-resistance capabilities, for their introduction and promotion in the various arid-land environment areas, in many parts of the Near East Region.

        1.3 In the field of post-production, FAO would continue to promote the development of appropriate agro-industries for increasing the value added of agricultural crops with the view to raising farmers' income, generating employment opportunities, reducing crop waste and losses, and encouraging export of agricultural products.

Particular attention would be given for the involvement of member countries in the Information Network on Post-Harvest Operations (INPhO), in order to make accessible to the interested people the information available in this network. Promotion of the information and technology database among NARS, by utilizing Internet-based communications, in collaboration with AARINENA, National Agricultural Research System (NARS) Secretariat, International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) and ICARDA would continue.

        1.4 For promoting sound farm management and production economics, FAO would support small farmers competitiveness and small-scale agribusiness development, and marketing and credit.

Small Farmer Competitiveness: This project can contribute to the formulation of regional and country strategies for agricultural development, focused on enhancing the productivity of small farmers. The project specifically addresses farmer enterprise choice and adjustments, in response to improved production-marketing linkages, with complementary attention to farm-level investment, post-harvest systems management, and farm power efficiency.

2. Animal Production and Health

The envisaged programmes will concentrate on improving the contribution of livestock to food security and increasing efficiency of services (production and health) to the producers. The Organization will provide technical support to regional networking on small ruminants, buffalo, rabbit production, animal housing, production of studies and surveys addressing strategic issues on utilization of forages, feed by-products, animal species and breeds, food and non-food products, geo-referenced knowledge data base on incidence, production losses and control of selected parasitic and infectious diseases, as well as the production of a digital atlas covering all major livestock species according to agro-ecological zones and an electronic atlas with integration of socio-economic criteria.

The subject of Transboundary Animal Diseases, within EMPRES programmes, would contribute an important priority in the FAO 2000-2001 workplan in the Region.

3. Food and Agriculture Policy Development and Information

In the field of nutrition, FAO will continue to extend its technical assistance and support to national services to implement FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius for Food Standards, improvement of nutritional status in peri-urban and rural areas, and to strengthen nutrition components in relief and rehabilitation. The development and compilation of a data base on food composition for the Near East Region is planned for the year 2000.

Focus will be placed on the implementation at country level of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS), through training, preparation of nutrition country profiles, and production of methodologies and guidelines; as well as on promoting appropriate dietary guidelines and nutrition education activities.

The Government of Iraq has requested FAO assistance in assessing the food and nutritional situation in Iraq and reviewing trends over the last years, beginning with a period immediately prior to the application of international sanctions, with a view to making recommendations for the improvement of the nutritional status of affected population groups. An assessment mission is planned for February 2000.

4. Fisheries Development

Technical support will be sustained to develop fisheries information and statistical services and networks in the Near East Region, strengthening of regional fisheries bodies, development of aquaculture, training on methodologies and guidelines on community-based fisheries and integrated coastal area management, small scale fisheries, national artisanal sea safety programmes.

FAO will also provide assistance to encourage fisheries management in coastal fisheries, and the promotion of international fish trade through coordination and information exchange, studies and analyses at sub-regional and regional levels, and the promotion to establish regional fisheries management bodies (i.e. Regional Fisheries Commissions in the Gulf area, Caspian Sea area, Red Sea area).

5. Forestry Development

FAO will promote programmes of biological diversity conservation and sustainable wildlife utilization, strengthening of forestry research and extension systems, country capacities on forestry policy and institutions support, assessment and monitoring of forests and woodland resources, forest plantations and planted trees resources. FAO will continue its direct advice through coordination and information exchange for the implementation of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management at the national level throughout the Region. Forestry Statutory Bodies, Committees and Networks would continue to receive FAO's support, such as the organization and holding of the Near East Forestry Commission, and regional inputs to SOFA 2001.

6. Contribution to Sustainable Development and Special Programme Thrusts

FAO will support the integrated development and dissemination of agricultural knowledge and technology for food security and sustainable development, strengthening of agricultural research, extension and education systems, promotion of gender and population in policies, legislation and civil institutions, technical support for programmes and activities for Women in Development. These various programmes would materialize through the development and the preparation of methodologies and guidelines (including training material, pilot testing and demonstration), studies and analyses, information database systems, in order to assist member countries for technology assessment and transfer, identification and appraisal of communication needs, and design of cost-effective programmes in the above mentioned fields.

7. Policy Advice on Future Programme Orientation and Sustainable Food Security in the Near East Region

The FAO/RNE programme orientation in the future will stress on assisting the member countries in priority areas affecting the sustainable development of the food and agriculture sector. Assistance on Water Policy Reform and Management will be stressed to achieve sustainable utilization and maintenance of the scarce water resources in the Region. The FAO assistance in advising countries on the macroeconomic and sector policy reform required to correct market distortions through long-term planning and enabling macro sector socio-economic policies and environment. FAO will continue its support to countries in their endeavours to design and implement long-term sustainable agricultural and rural development strategies and programmes. FAO will also continue assisting member countries in their preparations for the next round of negotiation for the World Trade Organization, as well as assisting WTO member and non-member countries in assessing the implications of the new world trade order. The implications of the Middle-East peace process on the agricultural development and sustainable resource use in the Region, as well as potential agricultural intra-regional trade and economic integration, will be reviewed and supported. FAO will continue to follow up the Plan of Action of the World Food Summit, and support countries' initiatives through the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS). In order to meet the Summit goal of halving the number of malnourished people by 2015, it is essential that all countries develop specific programmes to assist food insecure households improve their food and nutrition situation.

There is an urgent need to give special attention to gender issues and to recommend the improvement of extension programmes to reach rural women more effectively, as well as to involve them in planning, training and resource allocation, since women make a major contribution to agricultural production and food security in many countries of the Region.